Would Jesus support health care reform?
Jesus depicted healing a sick child.
June 28th, 2012
08:45 AM ET

Would Jesus support health care reform?

Editor’s note: This piece ran earlier this year, but we’re spotlighting it now because of Thursday’s health care decision from the Supreme Court. The story generated more than 3,000 comments, including these two:

David Nelson
It is sad that Jesus has been demoted to being a politician. Jesus plainly said "My Kingdom is not of this world." Movements to use Him to promote their agendas, whether they be on the Left or Right, are extremely suspect in the eyes of this Christian.

Jesus would SO have been a democrat. He taught us to care for the sick...not to profit off illness. I don't know how Republicans can live with themselves and call themselves Christian.

What’s your take?

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - He was a healer, a provider of universal health care, a man of compassion who treated those with preexisting medical conditions.

We don’t know what Jesus thought about the individual mandate or buying broccoli. But we do know how the New Testament describes him. The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus physically healing the most vulnerable and despised people in his society.

References to Jesus, of course, didn’t make into the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s hearings on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Yet there is a moral dimension to this epic legal debate:

How should the nation help its “least of these,” an estimated 50 million Americans who can’t afford health insurance, as well as those who could go broke or die because they can’t afford medical care?

Christians are as divided about this question as others. Many cite Jesus, but come up with completely different conclusions.

Trust God or government?

Tom Prichard, a Lutheran and president of the Minnesota Family Council, said it’s ultimately about faith.  Who do we trust – God or government?

He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government.

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“Here Jesus’ words come to mind about not worrying and trusting God to meet our basic needs,” Prichard wrote in an online post warning about the dangers of “government run health care.” “Or if we believe it all depends on us, we’ll look to government.”

When reached at his Minnesota office,Prichard elaborated: He said the nation should empower families and individuals to make health-care decisions. If families can’t afford health insurance, private and public entities like churches and nonprofits should step in, he said.

“We all have the same goal,”Prichard said. “We want all people to have health care, even people who can’t afford it. I would argue that having the government be the primary vehicle for providing it is not going to get us to that goal. It’s going to make the situation worse.”

Carl Raschke, a religious studies professor at the University of Denver, evoked Jesus’ words about Rome and taxation.

Raschke cited the New Testament passage when Jesus, after being asked if Jews should pay taxes to Rome, said that people should "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

Jesus was against strictly political or economic solutions because he thought they were too easy when it comes to the real challenges of human life, Raschke said.

“Writing checks won’t solve social problems,” Raschke said. “One has to get involved. If we see someone in need, we just don’t throw a dollar at him or her. You get to know them, you offer yourself, and ask what you can do for them.”

Helping the Good Samaritans of our day

There are some Christians, though, who say that charity isn’t enough to solve the nation’s health care problems.

An estimated 32 million Americans could lose health insurance if “Obamacare” is struck down, including children who can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 and seniors who get help paying for their drug prescriptions. Most observers say health care costs would continue to rise.

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Some people believe the health care situation in America would be scandalous to Jesus because he was a prophet concerned about social justice.

Steven Kraftchick, a religious scholar, said Jesus comes out of the tradition of Jewish prophets who preached that the health of a society could be measured by how well they took care of “its widows and orphans,” those who had the least power.

Kraftchick said there’s a famous story in the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus heals such a person. He was the man who called himself Legion. He might have been called homeless and mentally ill. The man roamed a graveyard, so tormented that even chains could not hold him and everyone feared him, Mark wrote.

Jesus healed the man not only physically, but socially as well, according to Mark. The man returned to his community with a sense of dignity, said Kraftchick, a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.

“A move toward universal health care would be fitting with the prophetic traditions,” Kraftchick said. “When you read the New Testament and look at the signs of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, it’s always connected to being physically healed.”

Yet Marcia Pally, an authority on evangelicals, said many evangelicals are wary of government doing the healing.  Their reasons go back centuries.

Many are the descendants of people who fled Europe because of religious persecution from countries and state churches. They fought a revolution against a government in England.  And they settled a frontier, where the virtue of self-reliance was critical, said Pally, author of “The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good.”

Suspicion of government is part of their historical and religious experience, said Pally, a professor at Fordham University and New York University.

Those attitudes, though, may be changing. Pally said she spent six years traveling across America to interview evangelicals. She discovered that a new generation of evangelists now believes that certain issues are too big and complex to be addressed by charity alone.

“Some note that charity is very good at the moment of emergency relief but it doesn’t change the underlying problem  unless structures that keep people poor, sick or deny their access to health insurance are changed,” she said.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, the legal debate will continue. If more Americans go broke or die because they do not have health insurance, more Americans may ask, what would Jesus do?

But don’t expect any easy answers from the Bible, said Raschke, the religious studies professor at the University of Denver.

“People are always looking for support from the Bible for American political positions,” Rashke said. “Would Jesus be against abortion, or would he support a woman’s right to choose? It’s almost become a standard joke in the theological world that you quote Jesus in American politics to support your political views.

“The teachings of Jesus do not fit into the views of any political party."

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Health care • Jesus • Politics

soundoff (5,234 Responses)

    if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  2. Ned

    This is a s stupid as asking what would Budda or the Easter Bunny do, slow news day? oh wait.. what would saint Trayvon do.. Cut me a break!

    March 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • palintwit

      I hope they disembowel that fat phuck redneck that shot him. Then feed what's left of him to the rats.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Christlink

      Shooting a drug pusher is ok

      March 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • palintwit

      @ Christlink... I have no problem shooting drug dealers. But I do have a problem with rumors started by rednecks.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  3. Horus

    Let's just get universal healthcare going and be done with it. It's the best choice for citizens.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Christlink

      Great – let those who are above 60 die – cannot afford it. Just like the retirement age will be increased to 70

      March 31, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  4. Kimo

    CINO. Christian in name only.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  5. pat

    Two commandments that Jesus said were most important, Love thy God with all your heart and treat your neighbor as thyself. Of course this assumes you have regard for yourself and also your neighbor is anyone you have contact with directly or indirectly. If these two things were done by the old 80/20 rule, so 80% or even less, we wouldn't be having this debate because it would already have been done. Remember this is a culture that had to argue over slavery and other basic civil rights, so the power of evil is still prevalent.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  6. Christlink

    Funny – Why don't they ask what Mohamed thinks? Maybe that 'peace' loving religion may explode a bomb in CNN's you know where!

    March 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Mr Burns

      Uhhhhh, you DO realize that the Bible is full of as much hate as the Koran right? I find it funny that any time anyone questions Christians, instead of answering the question, they deflect to Muslims. I don't care what Jesus would do, nor do I care what the Bible advocates. The Bible says it's OK for a man to sell his daughter into slavery. That's enough for me to know that I don't give a rats anus WHAT Jesus would do.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Christlink

      Mr Burns – suggest that you read the Bible. For the wisdom of man is foolishness unto God

      March 31, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  7. zaint007

    This says it all http://www.newsonhealthcare.com/why-g-dly-healthcare-is-above-all-others/

    March 31, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • zaint007

      Godly healthcare is above all others by proxy and by default since God exists in the heavens above this makes perfect sense. Now we do not intend on making light of our Lord and Savior what we intend on doing is impressing upon you the fact that this form of evangelical healthcare has been needed in America for quite some time and currently the interest is at a heightened level and we only intend on poking the fires a little.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  8. Rhonda

    Jesus healed the sick.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Anon

      Well according to christian myth yes, but in reality no.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Christlink

      Must be a myth that Julius Caesor existed?

      March 31, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      No, there's loads of evidence that Julius Caesar existed. All we know about Jesus comes from 4 short stories written 50-130 years after his supposed crucifixion by anonymous authors who couldn't have known him personally, who radically disagreed with each other about what happened during his life. They may be no more reliable than American legends like riverman Mike Fink and lumberjack Paul Bunyan. They certainly contain descriptions of things that should have been easily noticed and written down by many sources had they actually occurred, such as the star in the east, the Great Census of Caesar Augustus, and the zombie jamboree in Jerusalem as Jesus was being crucified, but NOBODY ELSE NOTICED. This sure makes it sound more like fiction than truth.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Rhonda

      Either you believe the Word of God or you don't. He straightened my spine, so He is still healing today!

      March 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Anon

      Another sucker for Peter Popoff or Benny Hinn.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Christlink

      Where have you been living? Do some research & you the truth will set you free

      March 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Christlink

      @Anon For the fool had said there is no God. Israel – its very existence can prove the truth of the Bible!

      March 31, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Anon

      That's like saying New York City exists, therefore Spider-Man exists. 😀

      March 31, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  9. mambert

    I do not understand as to how very intelligent people can be so ignorants.Universal healthcare is a matter of time;if not approved today,it will be approved tomorrow,the president of this country is a cristal clear fact of the historic reality

    March 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Christlink

      Oh Yeah? – the country is broke. Who is going to pay? Nothing wrong with death you know. We all have to face it sooner or later. Question is: Where will you be after death? The truth THAT YOU KNOW will set u free!

      March 31, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      The country isn't broke, it's just that the big oil companies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, banks, investment houses, and plutocrats are hogging all the money. That and the hundred gigabux we're annually pouring down that black hole in Asia.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Christlink

      @RichardSRussell Country isn't broke? Come out of the hole where you have buried your head.

      March 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  10. John Walsh

    This article is insulting.....as it is clearly written in a way to change Republican opinion

    March 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • mambert

      The article approach the altruism of jesus,then,a real christian; unless being a faker cannot disagree Universal healthcare

      March 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  11. Levi

    I was laid off from a good job at the railroad due to the failing economy. Businesses were not shipping as much so there were layoffs. I have now been a temp at the same company for 2 years with no benefits, no PTO, no vacation days and no chance at being hired. I interview all the time but never seem to land a job. This past week I had pneumonia and had to miss work for the week. I had a bad lung infection and couldn’t find anywhere to go in my low price range. My family doctor wanted me to pay 180 dollars co pay just to get a prescription. Denver general wanted 130 dollars for the same thing. Healthcare in this country is a scam and needs a major overhaul. I don’t know if this is the solution as there need to be monetary caps put in place for prescriptions as well as on copay. I could have died if I wasn’t young because of the fail situation we’re in. I am not a bum I am not uneducated yet I was left to die by our healthcare system. We need change now!

    March 31, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Boast Busters


      You should find a Catholic hospital in your area. They all tell us that treatment is free there.

      Seriously, though, I hope that you are feeling better and that you will be all well soon. Take care.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Boast Busters

      p.s. my town has a great community health clinic to serve low-income uninsured people. You might look into something like that in your area.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      And yet, if your house were on fire, you could call 911 and the fire department would be there immediately to put it out, no questions asked, no charge. Health care should work the same way.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Rhonda

      We have two free health care clinics in my county.

      March 31, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  12. palintwit

    Would jesus have a '72 Buick on cement blocks next to his double-wide ?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  13. Leo

    I do believe Jesus told people to obey the laws of man. He would probably look at the healthcare bill, compare it to the bill of rights, and say it's bogus.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Reality

      There is problem i.e. Jesus was illterate:

      The illiteracy of the simple preacher man aka Jesus, as per some contemporary experts:

      From Professor Bruce Chilton's commentary in his book, Rabbi Jesus, An Intimate Biography, p. 99,
      "What Luke misses is that Jesus stood in the synagogue as an illiterate m–amzer (pp. 98-102) in his claim to be the Lord's anointed".

      Note: Luke 4: 16 is a single attestation. No where else in the NT does it say Jesus could read thereby making said passage historically unreliable. (Luke 4:16-24) has been compared to a number of other passage and found to be equivalent with the exception of Luke 4: 16 which is the only passage in the list of equivalents that mentions reading:

      http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=022_Prophets_Own_Country (leave out the hyphen in "t-itle" if you access the reference)

      1) GThom. 31 & P. Oxy. 1.31
      (2) Mark 6:1-6a = Matt 13:53-58
      (3) Luke 4:16-24
      (4) John 4:44

      Professor JD Crossan notes that Jesus was illiterate coming from a landless peasant background, initially a follower of John the Baptist. e.g. The Excavation of Jesus (with Professor Reed), pp 30-31..

      The question of Jesus's literacy has also been much discussed by the Jesus Seminar and others and they note that references in the Gospels to Jesus reading and writing may well be fictions.

      The only Gospel reference to Jesus writing is John 8:6 in the Pericope Adulterae, widely considered a later addition, where it is not even clear he is forming letters in the dust, and the Greek "εγραφεν" could equally mean he was drawing.
      Luke 2: 41-52, the twelve year old Jesus in the temple- As per Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 275, " the episode is unhistorical" (again, a single attestaion). See also http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=433_Jesus_at_Twelve

      It is very unfortunate that Jesus was illiterate for it resulted in many gospels and epistles being written years after his death by non-witnesses. This resulted in significant differences in said gospels and epistles and with many embellishments to raise Jesus to the level of a deity to compete with the Roman gods and emperors. See Raymond Brown's book, An Introduction to the New Testament, (Luke 4:16 note on p. 237) for an exhaustive review of the true writers of the gospels and epistles.

      Of course, Muslims believe that Mohammed was also illiterate. This way, they can claim that the only way he could have received the "angelic", koranic passages of death to all infidels and Islamic domination of the globe by any means, was orally since he could not read and write.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • livefree

      Christians amaze me...law of man? Money controls your laws and you live in a country whose practical God is money. You are all just as dumb as the rest of us. Money makes the world go round not the belief that everyone is equal and you should care for your neighbor.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Christlink

      @Reality You qoute Professors as though they know what they are talking about. Answer this question if you can. If the Bible was written by man: How could it PREDICT the dispersion of the Jews & then state that Israel will become a nation after 2500 years?

      March 31, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  14. JT

    What a silly question to ask, is like asking Santa Clause who he is going to vote for President.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Levi

      Your opinion is silly. You don't want to believe in our lord then that's between you and him. Acting like an idiot and belitteling everyone else doesn't make you any smarter or better. You just show off how pathetic your heart really is. You should believe in christ, clearly you're nothing now and will remain nothing when you stand before the son of man and he states he doesn't believe in you either. Breathe life into your soul and life will be yours, and please stop acting like a baby. No one respects that.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Levi faults JT for "belitteling everyone else" and does so by observing "Your opinion is silly", saying JT is "Acting like an idiot" and "pathetic", telling him to "stop acting like a baby" and asserting "You should believe in christ" because "clearly you're nothing now".
      Well, I'm glad we've been treated to such a great example of how to comment without belittling someone. Everyone respects that.

      March 31, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  15. Anon


    March 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  16. livefree

    Hahaha its happened and was only a matter of time. Your new God is money lets face it. Cause if it wasn't wouldn't "Christian" hospitals be funded by all churches and be free?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  17. Bubba

    Thump that Bible, white boy. What a load of crap.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  18. palintwit

    Wouild jesus live in the bible belt and keep his refrigerator on his front porch ?

    March 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Probably, Jesus lived among the "least of us."

      March 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  19. Skeptical

    It is obviously ridiculous to rely on the so-called "Free Market" for a CRITICAL service such as health care. Insurance companies don't really care about anyone's health - THEY ARE IN BUSINESS TO MAKE MONEY. PERIOD.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  20. Athiest Bob

    lol...Jesus voting for a democrat is like Obama lowering your taxes...

    March 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You do know, don't you, that Obama DID lower your taxes?

      March 31, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.